The Beauty of Synergy

In Philippians 2:25-30, the apostle Paul makes some praiseworthy remarks about one of the saints from the church at Philippi, whose name was Epaphroditus. In vs. 25, Paul highlights several admirable qualities of this model Christian: “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants”. In particular, notice that Paul commended Epaphroditus for being a “companion in labour” (KJV) or a “fellow worker” (NAS). The Greek word that’s translated here, is the word “sunergos,” which is where we get our English word, “synergy.” According to the American Heritage Dictionary, “synergy” is defined as “the interaction of two or more forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 touches on the idea of synergy, and describes it this way: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” As this passage points out, two is better than one, because together they’re going to get more return for their labor. That’s synergy. I once heard about a horse-pulling competition, where the 1st place horse pulled roughly 5,000 lbs, and the 2nd place horse pulled approximately 4,000 lbs. After the event was over, just out of curiosity, the organizers hooked the two horses together, to see how much weight they could pull as a unit. Now we would probably expect that they would pull 9,000 lbs, right? (After all, 5,000 + 4,000 = 9,000.) What actually happened, though, was that the 2 horses pulled nearly 12,000 lbs! You see, when they worked together, they were able to pull exponentially more weight than the sum of their individual efforts. I believe this is what Jesus had in mind when he sent the apostles out “two by two” in Mark 6:7. That is, they could get more done if they went out in pairs, as opposed to twelve separate individuals. And Paul was commending Epaphroditus for being that kind of “companion in labour.” He was a team player, and his teamwork caused the total amount of work accomplished, to be more than the sum of its parts. My friends, the Lord’s church needs more workers like Epaphroditus! And there’s actually a lot of wisdom in working synergetically. For one, when we work together, it helps to preserve unity within the body of Christ. Secondly, it helps get more Christians involved in the work of the church. And thirdly, it helps evenly distribute the work that needs to be done, so that no one person is overburdened. Think also about this: Not everyone is suited for every work. Not everyone is ready for every work. Not everyone is comfortable in every work. But isn’t that the beauty of synergy? For example, I might not feel adequate enough to conduct an at-home Bible study with my neighbor…but maybe you are. So instead of me trying to conduct that Bible study all by myself, you can go with me, and we can do it together. You can lead the discussion, and I can observe the “do’s & don’ts” of an effective Bible study, which will hopefully give me the experience, and the knowledge, and the courage to engage in this work more regularly in the future. And while all this is going on, don’t forget, we’re teaching someone about the Bible. Imagine all the work we can accomplish in the vineyard of the Lord when we work together! Like the words of that hymn we often sing, “Oh the things we may do, you and I…” You see, not everyone is capable of being the “lead dog,” but if there’s one thing we can all do, is be a “companion in labour.” And no matter who you are, you ought to take comfort in the fact that not only are we workers together, but as Paul points out in I Corinthians 3:9, we are “labourers together with God.” God helps us as well, as we seek to carry out the work he has entrusted us to do. That’s the beauty of synergy!
Josh McKibben

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